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Category : Marketing Communications

We Just Got Skyscrapered

Just yesterday, we got skyscrapered. No, we didn’t get an office in a giant building or fly an ad from one or anything like that, nor is that some weird pop-culture thing that teenagers are putting on YouTube. We were the target of an attempt at “skyscraper marketing” … and I’m talking about it, so I guess it worked in a sense.

I’ll talk more about this particular instance in a moment, but first I wanted to give an intro to skyscraper marketing for anyone who isn’t familiar with it.

The “What” and “Why” of Skyscraper Marketing

Skyscraper marketing was one method which was popularized after Google’s 2013 Hummingbird algorithm update. To summarize the implications of that in brief: there was once a time when you could “trick” Google into thinking that your website was more important than it was by posting links around the internet pointing to your website. Hummingbird was the Google update that put an end to that once and for all and penalized websites that did not comply. From then on, if you wanted to prove your website’s importance (and thereby improve your search ranks), you needed to earn your backlinks organically.

That’s about the time when content marketing became more important. From that point, not only was it the validation that showed prospects you knew what you were talking about, but it was the primary tool at your disposal to influence your search rankings (beyond the basic on-site optimization, such as optimized URLs and title tags, that everyone does and therefore isn’t a real source of competitive advantage). The more shareable the content, the more backlinks it would likely get, and therefore the better it was for SEO.

Thus, Skyscraper Marketing was devised. At its most basic, I can break it down into a three step process:

  1. Find successful content.
  2. Improve upon it.*
  3. Share it with people who would be interested in it and, in turn, share it themselves.

*The necessity for improvement is debatable, but you do have to do something to it. More on that in a moment…

The “How” of Skyscraper Marketing

Skyscraper marketing is, essentially, a type of influencer marketing in that the important part is the last step – getting people with engaged audiences to share it. That being the case, there are two primary approaches (and you don’t have to choose between them – you can do both at the same time).

The first approach is the incremental improvement approach. You find some good content which you have something to add to / make better / pose a counterpoint to / etc., then distribute it to a bunch of people who would find it relevant and potentially want to share it. In this approach, you’re adding something to the general body of knowledge in the hope that your contributed insight is enough to make it a worthwhile share – especially from people who have large audiences themselves. Again, the goal is to get as many backlinks and as many eyeballs as possible (those goals do overlap) so the more people you reach out to the better.

The second approach is the “stroking one’s ego” approach. In this approach, your goal isn’t necessarily to improve upon good pieces of content, but rather to act as an aggregator. You take really good tidbits from the thinking of a number of different influencers, and repackage them into a single, easily digestible, and readily shareable piece of content, being sure to reference and link to the authors / posts whose thinking you aggregated. You then reach back out to those people and let them know that you published something which referenced them. People, being generally inclined towards things that make themselves seem important, will share your article which highlights their own thinking.

BioBM’s Skyscraper Marketing Tips

As with influencer marketing, you want to take care to do it correctly. If you don’t, you’ll not only waste your time and effort, but you’ll also get a reputation among the influencers in your market as a peddler of junk content. If that happens, skyscraper marketing or other forms of influencer marketing will be more difficult for you in the future. Just as poor quality content can reflect badly upon your brand, asking people to share poor quality content will erode your relationships with those influencers.

To not be “that guy,” here are some useful tips:

  • Don’t spam your network. Only send out good content and only send it to people who would find it genuinely relevant.
  • Don’t plagiarize copy … or ideas. If people realize they’ve heard it all before elsewhere, they probably won’t share it.
  • Note that “improved content” does not mean “longer content.” A lot of people have a habit of focusing on expanding upon an idea rather than improving upon it. Improvement is far more important than expansion. If you make something better or take a novel perspective on an idea, that’s far more worthy of sharing than simply adding more of the same.
  • “Improved content” also doesn’t mean that you need to improve on the idea itself. Communicating it more effectively – for instance, using illustration to more clearly demonstrate a complex point – can be just as valuable.
  • Always remember: your content behaves like a product and must be differentiated!
  • If you’re going to take an ego-driven approach, be sure you show that you have taken the time to fully understand and eloquently explain the idea, and give some praise to the original author without coming of as a flatterer.

So to finish the story…

Upon checking our social media dashboards this morning, I saw this tweet:

I’ve been published more than the average person, but that’s still enough to get my attention so I gave it a quick read through. I ended up not sharing it on our @BioBM twitter account (and I don’t use my personal @CHoytPhD twitter anymore) for a few reasons. Primarily, we have very high standards for what BioBM publishes through our channels. We generally require there to be some element of newness, and we didn’t find there to be any particularly fresh thinking. (Sorry, Joe! No offense intended.) Secondarily, it was a really obvious skyscraper attempt, especially since our idea which was shared wasn’t strongly relevant to the body of the article and was simply one of many listed in bullet point format towards the end. On the other hand, Joe did well not to plagiarize the ideas which he referenced, but rather offered a tidbit of them with a link to the source. That was nice of him. (Thanks, Joe!)

That said, it did engage a discussion on twitter and his post did end up being linked to on our blog, so I suppose Joe can claim victory after all. He’s also welcome to follow this shameless promotion for our “Marketing of Life Science Tools & Services” LinkedIn group and post it there as well. 2262 members and counting!

Just for fun, and because who doesn’t love architecture, here’s a few more images of skyscrapers. All images are courtesy of Unsplash, which in an amazing feat of generosity allows their beautiful, high-resolution images to be used for any purpose and without attribution. I find that so awesome that I’m giving them attribution anyway.


"Innovative companies deserve innovative marketing. If you want to leverage the next generation of marketing strategies to not only help you achieve success, but create genuine strategic advantage for your company, contact BioBM. It’s never too early or too late, but the sooner we get started the more of a head start you’ll have."

Why People Are Loyal … to ANYTHING

I was reading the MarketingCharts newsletter today and saw a headline: “What Brings Website Visitors Back for More?” The data was based on a survey of 1000 people, and they found the top 4 reasons were, in order:
1) They find it valuable
2) It’s easy to use
3) There is no better alternative for the function it serves
4) They like it’s mission / vision

Website Loyalty Data from MarketingCharts.com

I thought about it for a second and had a realization – this is why people are loyal to ANYTHING! And achieving these 4 things should be precisely our goal as marketers:
1) Clearly demonstrate value
2) Make your offerings – and your marketing – accessible
3) Show why your particular thing is the best. (Hint: If it’s not the best you probably need to refine your positioning to find the market segment that it is the best for.)
4) Tell your audiences WHY. Get them to buy into it. Don’t just drone on about the what, but sell them on an idea. Captivate them with a belief!

Do those 4 things well, you win.

BTW, the MarketingCharts newsletter is a really good, easy to digest newsletter – mostly B2C focused but there’s some great stuff in there even for a B2B audience and you can get most of the key points in each day’s newsletter under a minute.

"Captivate your customers’ loyalty. Contact BioBM and let’s turn your marketing program into a strategic advantage."

Personalization Can Backfire

Marketers are used to seeing a lot of data showing that improving personalization leads to improved demand generation. The more you tailor your message to the customer, the more relevant that message will be and the more likely the customer will choose your solution. Sounds reasonable, right?

In most cases personalization is great, but what those aforementioned studies and all the “10,000-foot view” data misses is that there are a subset of customers for whom personalization doesn’t help. There are times when personalization can actually hurt you.

When Personalization Backfires

Stressing the points which are most important to an individual works great … when that individual has sole responsibility for the purchasing decision. For large or complex purchases, however, that is often not the case. When different individuals involved in a purchasing decision have different priorities and are receiving different messages tailored to their individual needs, personalization can act as a catalyst for divergence within the group, leading different members to reinforce their own needs and prevent consensus-building.

Marketers are poor at addressing the problems in group purchasing. A CEB study of 5000 B2B purchasers found that the likelihood of any purchase being made decreases dramatically as the size of the group making the decision increases; from an 81% likelihood of purchase for an individual, to just 31% for a group of six.

For group purchases, marketers need to focus less on personalization and more on creating consensus.

Building Consensus for Group Purchases

Personalization reinforces each individual’s perspective. In order to more effectively sell to groups, marketers need to reinforce shared perspectives of the problem and the solution. Highlight areas of common agreement. Use common language. Develop learning experiences which are relevant to the entire group and can be shared among them.

Personalization focuses on convincing individuals that your solution is the best. In order to better build consensus, equip individuals with the tools and information they need to provide perspective about the problem to their group. While most marketers spend their time pushing their solution, the CEB found that the sticking point in most groups is agreeing upon the nature of the solution that should be sought. By providing individuals within the groups who may favor your solution with the ability to frame the nature of the problem to others in their group, you’ll help those who have a nascent desire to advocate for you advocates get past this sticking point and guide the group to be receptive of your type of solution. Having helped them clear that critical barrier, you’ll be better positioned for the fight against solely your direct competitors.

Winning a sale requires more than just understanding the individual. We’ve been trained to believe that personalization is universally good, but that doesn’t align with reality. For group decisions, ensure your marketing isn’t reinforcing the individual, but rather building consensus within the group. Only then can you be reliably successful at not only overcoming competing companies, but overcoming the greatest alternative of all: a decision not to purchase anything.

"Looking to improve how you communicate with your market? There are only so many minutes in the day and effective communications must first successfully fight for those minutes, then deliver a message that resonates. The power to captivate is what will bring you a greater share of attention, and you can only win the customers who are paying attention to you. BioBM is here to help you win – at every step. We ensure that you win market share through winning and maintaining another important share: share of attention. The days of marketing by interruption are fading away. The days of marketing by captivation have arrived. These days can be yours. Seize them."

The End Is Not Nigh (now let’s get serious…)

People love to decry the end of marketing. It’s a good attention-getter. While those who shout about the coming of the end of marketing from their soapboxes are usually guilty of lacking realism or using poor logic, they do make us think about the future and that can be a learning experience. Let’s take an example…

Knowledge @ Wharton recently published an interesting, albeit narrow-sighted and overly apocalyptic article about the end of marketing and what, according to the author, will be the very narrow opportunities to engage audiences that will remain in the future. The author does a very good job of identifying trends but a very bad job of predicting what the future will likely look like, but both the good and the bad provide important lessons and highlight valuable opportunities.

First, the trends. No reason to discuss these much because most should be more or less obvious to anyone reading this.

  1. People would rather listen to other people than brands.
  2. People are going to greater lengths to avoid the onslaught of advertisement.
  3. Marketing technology “cannot truly understand the complexities of consumer intent” and therefore hitting the trifecta of the right message on the right channel at the right time is exceedingly difficult. (This I would actually say is up for debate. It’s a gray area. A discussion for another time, perhaps…)
  4. Marketers are overwhelming digital channels, further driving users to avoid marketing out of simple necessity. See point #2.

And here are the author’s four corresponding points of how he envisions the future:

  1. “As consumers bypass media with greater ease, the social feed is the wormhole to the entire online experience.”
  2. “As consumers outcompete marketers for each other’s attention, every piece of media contained in the feed is not only shareable, but shoppable.” – basically, he’s arguing that social channels become capable of performing transactions.
  3. “As the individual controls the marketing experience, communication shifts from public to semi-private.” In other words, people move from things like Facebook to things like Snapchat, where there are fewer ads and more privacy.
  4. Only two types of marketing will remain: discounts / sales and transparent sponsored content.

These predictions amount to a wild fantasy.

The most obvious flaw in the author’s reasoning is that somehow a completely shoppable social media ecosystem would evade the rules that everyone else has to play by – namely that when marketing becomes overwhelming, the audience will block it out or leave. This also ignores the plain fact that the large majority of the things that people buy are not found organically via social media. There is no shortage of people who shop. Decisions may be influenced in the social sphere, and perhaps some impulse decisions both begin and end there, but those are the exception; the overwhelming majority of purchasing decisions do not occur entirely within the social sphere and that would not change if social channels were empowered with transactability.

The real world contains a great deal of equilibrium. The ability to target people and their ability to tune it out is a balancing act. It is a cat and mouse game. Technology works both ways, and as new channels and technologies are born there become more ways to reach customers. However, as channels are flooded, the impact of each individual effort diminishes. Marketing self-regulates by decreasing its own ROI as utilization of any particular channel increases.

So What Will the Future of Marketing Look Like?

There are definitely many channels that will continue their trend towards ineffectiveness. It’s increasingly likely that audiences, fed up with maddening digital display advertising techniques, continue to adopt ad blocking technology and erode the potential of that channel. Email, while still rated as a high-ROI channel, is looking like it may have a perilous future as email service providers become better at filtering out promotions. Social media will certainly take on a larger share of permission-based marketing, but it will remain a risky business to rely too much on “rented” audiences. Increasing utilization of content marketing will continue to add noise and, in turn, increase its own cost by requiring better and better content to obtain the inherently limited resource it seeks to obtain: the audience’s attention. Increased use of social media may, if adoption increases as we project, fall victim to a similar effect, limiting brands’ ability to market effectively using social channels.

Not all developments will be bad. A decline in interruption tactics will lead to a fundamental shift in how marketing is viewed from a tool to generate demand to a mechanism to deliver value to audiences and a source of strategic advantage. Customer-centric resources and other owned platforms will proliferate as companies seek new ways to deliver value to customers while increasing the affinity level between customer and brand. These companies with strong brand affinities will create sustainable advantage for themselves as they shortcut and compress the customer decision journeys. Additionally, new and yet unknown channels will develop, and at increasingly rapid pace. Consider that until about 20 years ago, no digital channels existed at all. Accelerating technology development will continue this trend and also enable more personalized, coordinated, and targeted marketing in a manner which is more accessible and usable by companies of all sizes, budgets and capabilities.

I’m not going to try to pinpoint detailed specifics – I’m not claiming to be a psychic and it would be a waste of your time to read simple conjecture – but there are things that we can be fairly certain of given current trends, a bit of logic, and a hint of foresight. Marketing isn’t going anywhere, and while in the future it may not look quite like it does today, it will still be something that Philip Kotler would distinctly recognize.

"Marketing is a race, but unlike the 200 meter sprint there aren’t any referees that will call you for a false start. Get a jump on your competition, charge forward on the path to market domination, and start leveraging the next generation of marketing strategies today. Work with BioBM."

If You Don’t Own Your Channels, You Don’t Own Your Audience

A very telling thing happened in October. YouTube, in preparation to release it’s paid subscription service, Red, told its top content creators that “any ‘partner’ creator who earns a cut of ad revenue but doesn’t agree to sign its revenue share deal for its new YouTube Red $9.99 ad-free subscription will have their videos hidden from public view on both the ad-supported and ad-free tiers.” (ref: TechCrunch). In other words, if content creators who are getting revenue from their YouTube videos don’t agree to Red, their channel will go dark. All those subscribers will mean nothing if they can’t access your content.

This should be something of a reality check for marketers. On YouTube or any third party social channel, your audience doesn’t belong to you; it belongs to the channel. Those Twitter followers? Twitter owns them. All those Facebook likes? They’re not your property, they’re Facebook’s. Any one of those channels can do anything they want with them at any time. Feel insecure? It is.

What if Facebook removed access to people who have liked your page unless you pay for engagement? There’s no reason they couldn’t. Or what if the social network that you’ve poured so many resources into in order to develop a large following were to fade away – perhaps people start abandoning Twitter en masse for Snapchat (or whatever comes after Snapchat)?

You don’t own your social media audiences. In many cases, you don’t even own the content you’ve shared on that social channel. You definitely don’t own your advertising audiences or any other audience which is rented. Any and all of these audiences can be taken away. If you’re looking to develop an attentive and loyal audience that’s both engaged and secure, what can you do?

Building an Owned Audience

Building an owned audience requires that you create a platform for audience growth which is under your full control. Any audience on a “rented” channel belongs to the channel and not to you.

Building an owned audience also requires that the channel you create offer sufficient value such that people want to engage with it and return to it. Getting someone to hit the “follow” button on a social platform is very non-committal. Getting someone to sign up for an entirely new platform is a higher bar. You need to ensure that you sufficiently understand and address genuine audience needs in order to for them to commit. Furthermore, unlike social media, you need to provide enough value that the audience will go back just for the value your owned platform provides; there won’t [necessarily] be many other people and brands drawing them back into it, giving them reasons to return and engage. While yours may be just one of 100 liked pages and 500 friends competing for space on a Facebook user’s feed, that may be enough to provide you with the opportunity to grab for their attention. There may be a lot of competition for that attention, but there are also many reasons for the users to continuously return to the channel; the burden of reeling the audience back in is widely distributed among their many connections and the platform itself. On an owned channel, you must make it entirely your responsibility to entice to engage and continue to reengage over time, but each time they do you own that attention. You write the rules.

That begs the question: What do you need to do to build an owned channel?

The form that the owned channel takes is irrelevant. The form should simply be a response to audience needs. It can be as simple as a blog or as complex as anything you or I could imagine. There are only three requirements:

  1. It has to provide genuine value to the target audience. That’s what is going to attract their attention. Understand what problems your customers are having and focus on helping to solve them. Your platform has to be primarily about your customers.
  2. The value has to be sustained over time. An audience that only pays attention once doesn’t do you much good. While the audience itself can sometimes be leveraged to add value to the platform, don’t plan on it happening. Expect that you’re going to have to be the one to continue to add value to the platform over time. If that seems like an unsustainable effort, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
  3. It has to meaningfully connect the audience with your brand.

By creating a platform which enriches the lives of members of your target market, you’ll find yourself growing a willing, captive, and secure audience – on your terms.

"Future-proof your marketing and create a strategic advantage by having “owned” audiences that turn the tides of customer sentiment to your advantage. Scientists are slow to change their loyalties, but if you can consistently provide the best value – the best experiences – your brand will become the default selection above which others must prove their worth.

Own the incumbent advantage. Contact us."

Is Publishing the Holy Grail of Content Marketing?

There’s a lot of noise coming from some fairly reputable sources extolling the virtues of publishing as the next generation of content marketing (I’m sure you’ll be very familiar with this if you follow the Content Marketing Institute at all). For instance, let’s take a look at a recent article from the Harvard Business Review website – “Content Is Crap, and Other Rules for Marketers” – which makes some great points, but misses some equally if not more important points.

To begin, let’s summarize his 4 rules, which are all extremely valid points…

Rule 1 – Recognize that content is crap. This is best highlighted by the author: “We never call anything that’s good ‘content.’ Nobody walks out of a movie they loved and says, ‘Wow! What great content!’ Nobody listens to ‘content’ on their way to work in the morning. Do you think anybody ever called Ernest Hemingway a ‘content creator’? If they did, I bet he would punch ‘em in the nose.” He goes on to state that marketers need to be more like publishers.

A bit of a side note before we move on. The author is appealing to emotion a bit and is forgetting that content is a somewhat technical term – no one says they drink “dihydrogen monoxide” either. What this is more illustrative of is the mentality of many content marketers. What’s important isn’t, for example, that the people who watch great movies don’t refer to it as “content” but that the producers, writers, directors, and actors who set out to make a great movie don’t refer to it as content. It’s the mentality of content – making “stuff” that begs for attention – which gets people stuck in a losing paradigm and it’s a paradigm that needs to be dropped.

Rule 2 – Hold attention, don’t just grab it. “Marketers need to build an ongoing relationship with consumers and that means holding attention, not just grabbing it. To get people to subscribe to a blog, YouTube channel, or social media feed, you need to offer more than a catchy slogan or a clever stunt. You need to offer real value, and offer it consistently.” The author argues that publishing solves this problem.

Rule 3 – Don’t over-optimize metrics. It’s too easy to confuse measurement with meaning. He uses the example of Buzzfeed, who no longer uses clickbait titles as they’ve realized that they optimize for pageviews, which are just clicks, but betray the reader’s trust. By under-promising and over-delivering, you create more engagement with the content and make it more likely that the reader will return to read another article later. It’s the long game vs. short game conundrum. You can make the numbers look good if you pretend not to care about your numbers a year from now.

Rule 4 – Understand that publishing is a product, not a campaign. In brief, the author makes the point that one of the keys to being successful in being more like a publisher is to treat it with more permanence and seriousness.

There are some great points here… Content is not enough. You can’t simply interrupt your way to success; you need a way to build an audience. Ensure your metrics are effectively measuring value creation. And publishing has serious merits, but the answer is bigger than publishing.

The Inherent Problems With Publishing

Yes, publishing is often superior to more basic forms of content marketing, but it’s not for everyone. Not every company has some amazing, inherently compelling story to tell, and not every company has the resources to continually deliver pieces of that story through carefully crafted content consistently over a long period of time. That’s a massive effort. Assuming publishing is a magic bullet ignores reality and ultimately falls victim to the same problems plaguing other iterations of content marketing: if it becomes well adopted, it’s very quickly going to become much more difficult to do effectively.

The audience’s attention is inherently limited, and while publishing tries to occupy more of that attention, it doesn’t solve the attention problem and it falls into the same trap as more “generic” forms of content marketing. It’s actually a natural response to the lack of supply of customer attention which follows basic economic principles: If the supply of something is limited and demand increases the result is an increasing cost. As more and more content competes for limited attention the “cost” of the customers’ attention increases, meaning you need higher quality content to obtain it. Treating content marketing more like publishing doesn’t change that fact, it simply throws more resources at the problem so higher quality content can be produced – a necessity to continue to compete for customers’ attention in an environment where it is in ever-increasing demand. It’s not like audiences couldn’t do things such as subscribe to blogs almost two decades ago, it’s simply that it takes a better content effort to grab and hold attention than it used to.

Should You Be a Publisher?

Publishing cannot be the answer for everyone. It is literally impossible for 100% of brands to be successful publishers because the audience does not have enough attention to go around. How can you tell if you should be a publisher? Answer these two questions:

  1. How interesting are you? Take a good honest look at your brand and figure out how interesting you are. Some have great stories to tell. Some do amazing things. Some would make highly impactful thought leaders. Others simply aren’t so captivating. If your brand simply isn’t all that interesting compared to others in your space, you might want to consider something else.
  2. Can you – and will you – sufficiently resource the effort? Putting out top-quality content on a regular basis is no easy job by itself, and publishing requires more than that. The amount of time and resources that will need to go into planning, editing, graphic design, etc., will be significantly greater. At the same time, publishing still won’t provide a short-term payoff. Do you have the resources and the necessary leadership buy-in to be a publisher?

The Real Focus

If you’re not in the upper echelon of brands with regards to your ability and willingness to be a publisher, all is not lost. After all, being a publisher is not the goal. The reason that taking on the role of publisher is being touted as superior to content marketing is because it’s more effective at delivering meaningful value to customers. That’s also the underlying reason why it better holds the audience’s attention. At the end of the day customers gravitate to value, and there’s a lot more ways to provide value than just being a publisher.

Shift your paradigm from thinking about content to developing actual resources that solve genuine customer problems. Ask yourself what problems customers are having that they might not pay for a solution to, but are readily solvable with a bit of time and effort. Analyze them, prioritize them, and solve the most critical ones that provide the best opportunity for long-term value creation and evolving the customer relationship beyond a transactional one.

Double down on customer experience. Make it easier, faster, and simpler for customers to obtain value from you. Look at some of the juggernauts of tech – Google, Facebook, Uber, Amazon – they didn’t get to where they are because of content marketing. Most of their content marketing efforts aren’t even on people’s radar. What they do is solve problems quickly and simply. You know what’s a great experience? When you can type a question and an answer appears, when you press a button and a cab simply shows up, or when you can instantly be connected to any of your friends. There’s are myriad examples out there, and while it may be easier to do in tech than in the life sciences, it’s certainly not impossible in any industry.

If you’re existing content marketing efforts are becoming less effective, one option is certainly to hunker down, take it more seriously, and spend the resources to become a highly effective publisher. But that’s expensive, difficult, and only delays the onset of many of the underlying problems plaguing content marketing. Publishing treats the symptoms, not the disease. Rid yourself of all paradigms but the one which relies on this one fundamental truth: customers will favor those brands which contribute the most value to their lives. Let that reality guide your actions and you’ll soon find your audiences flocking to you.

"Are you struggling to attract your target audience? Do you find you need to interrupt them to try to get their attention? Then it’s time to do something different. Shed all your old paradigms and focus on unique and differentiated ways to add genuine value to your audiences’ lives. Provide meaningful value to your customers, and they’ll provide value to you. It’s a virtuous cycle. Start yours."

Wide Nets Don’t Win

The fear of loss is stronger than the desire for gain.

This is a scientific fact. Here’s the first paper that describes it, but there are a lot more which confirm it. It’s known as loss aversion, and it makes both us and our customers irrational.

Loss aversion is, for instance, why challenger marketing works so well. Lots of companies talk about benefits – what customers have to gain by using your product or service – but customers respond better if you can convince them that the way they are currently doing things is wrong. Tell them that they are currently experiencing loss and they’ll more likely act in your favor. (Don’t just take it from me – you can ask the Corporate Executive Board.)

Challenger marketing is underutilized, however. Why? Simple. Loss aversion. Most marketers are scared of being negative. They think – without any proof to support it – that communicating a thought which could be perceived as negative will turn customers off and cause a blowback on their brands. They are afraid of making people upset more than they desire gains. This persists and directs action even in spite of evidence that being negative at times can provide positive results.

An even more critical and fundamental area where loss aversion cripples marketers is in positioning. Marketers, and the corporate honchos that preside over them, love to cast wide nets. They just love to pretend that everyone is a potential customer. When that becomes the default scenario, we find ourselves in a dangerous position. Loss aversion makes us scared to cut out pieces of the market, that’s not what makes positioning an effective tool. Wide nets don’t win.

Positioning is about defining who is and who isn’t a target customer. We want to maximize the chance that we’re going to close opportunities. We do that not by casting the widest net, but by resonating with those our net is designed to catch. Those are the people we should want to sell to – not the masses who will suck up our marketing dollars and sales efforts but have little chance of converting. That requires putting your loss aversion aside and cutting out your true piece of the market – that which you are realistically and effectively able to capture.

Loss aversion is a powerful tool for marketers, but the same thing that makes it so useful can be harmful when it manifests in ourselves. Don’t just understand the psychology of your scientist-customers, but understand your own psychology as well. You’ll make better decisions as a result.

"Have a question for Carlton on life science marketing? Shoot us a message."

Avoiding Skepticism

The scientific buying journey is fraught with skepticism. From the buyer’s perspective, this is a requirement of a good buying journey. The buyer must decide what to believe and what not to believe, determine what is meaningful and what is not, and refine their understanding of their own needs all while being blasted with marketing messages from companies that are all trying to get the scientist’s business. Skepticism is a natural and required component of these efforts. It is also the enemy of the marketer.

Skepticism is what makes overly pushy and overtly bombastic messages fail. It’s also part of the fuel for the rise in content marketing. Marketers are looking for ways to convey their messages in manners that create less skepticism. Rather than immediately jumping to validation, promotion, and flat-out selling, they first attempt to educate in a more subtly guiding manner which conditions the scientists to viewpoints that will be later elaborated on in the more traditional marketing efforts. However, promoting content to scientists is not the same as the scientists discovering content on their own, and the manner in which content is presented will, in part, determine their receptiveness to it. Additionally, taking a “hands off” approach throughout the buying journey such as to avoid skepticism would lead to overall marketing ineffectiveness due to low rates of opportunity development later in the journey.

Educational content is often necessary, but never sufficient. We therefore must consider the nature of messages, as well as how those messages are to be delivered, such that we can avoid skepticism-driven rejection earlier in the buying journey while still creating the desired effect in the later stages of the buying journey: a closed sale.

Illustration of how messages should be adapted to different positions within the buying journey.

Evolving Message Types

Early in the journey, the customer is gathering information and may not even yet realize that they have a need for a product. At this stage, educational content is the way to go. You want to help them learn and discover information that will prime them to your point of view without giving them reason to be skeptical (as promoting a commercial solution would).

As they transition from discovery and exploration to analysis, they know a need exists and start to actively gather and evaluate options. Educational content is still useful, so long as it is focused on the customers’ needs. Basic background information is of little interest to the customer at this point, unless it is something so disruptive to their journey that they need to reconsider its premises. Additionally, we want to start adding validation content – content that demonstrates to them that the solution we are advocating is correct. (For example, case studies are a very common form of validation content.) This type of content will help them understand our offering as a qualified option to solve their need. If the customer has been properly educated to accept our point of view earlier in the buying journey, validation content will not raise skepticism.

As they come to the late stages of analysis and approach their buying decision, educational content should be largely avoided in favor of additional validation as well as promotions – the “hard sell,” as we call it. At this point the opportunity exists; we just need to seize it! Dancing around it with more educational content will not effectively prompt action. More direct calls to action are required.

Message Centricity

Let me lead off with this reminder: life science marketers should always maintain a focus on their scientist-customers. That said, customer-centricity exists on a sliding scale, as most things do, and is not absolute. Changing the centricity of your messages throughout the buying journey is also necessary for optimal performance.

Early in the journey, we should have a nearly exclusive customer focus. Everything should be framed from the perspective of the customer and their needs. We should adopt their perspective as much as possible. As the journey continues, we can shed a little bit of this customer-centricity, giving room to focus more first on the technology, then ultimately on the product. We are not shifting to a product-focus. We are shifting to a customer-centric product focus. We can never focus solely on the product. Why? The product is a lower-order need and our scientist-customers will respond vastly better to higher-order needs (the reason they need your solution in the first place).

Mechanism of Discovery

The manner in which messages are delivered can raise skepticism. However, the mechanisms that raise the least skepticism are not the most effective throughout the buying journey, so shifting mechanisms of message delivery / discovery must be considered as well.

Messages that are naturally found by your audience tend to raise far less skepticism than messages that are pushed upon them. Early in the buying journey, we want to rely on mechanisms that are organic – those which allow the messages or content to be found naturally by your audience or in a manner that feels natural. They should be able to actively choose to interact with it rather than have it pushed upon them. This could include organic search, display or native advertising, and placement within third party media. In general, marketing tactics that are considered inbound would roughly overlap with organic discovery. Regardless, the customer must feel as if they are driving their own discovery.

As the customer has more interaction with your brand and consents to receive marketing, you can begin to transition from pull to push. Even with permission, you should avoid the temptation to get too pushy too quickly, as you can still very easily raise skepticism by doing so. As the customer progresses through the buying journey, you can transition more from customer-driven discovery to a more visibly active role in leading them. This more active role will be necessary; if you were to always wait for the customer to “organically” discover and interact with your content, you could very well lose mindshare to your competitors. Therefore, a careful and evolving balance is required throughout the buying journey.

Transitioning Goals

While the ultimate goal of closing a sale remains the same throughout the buying journey, looking at the interim goals can help to understand both why the aforementioned transitions are necessary and how to execute them. In brief, we transition from:

  • Shifting the scientists’ viewpoint without activating skepticism …
  • … to convincing them that the adopted viewpoint is the correct one …
  • … to persuading them to act on their beliefs and execute a transaction.


We shift from seeking to primarily avoid rejection as the customer remains open to many viewpoints, to seeking acceptance as the customer evaluates and filters their options towards an ultimate decision.

Avoiding skepticism is undeniably important, and raising skepticism with your marketing can shut your brand out of a customers’ buying journey early on. However, the approaches that we use to avoid skepticism do not make for an efficient marketing platform as the buying journey progresses. Many of the mechanisms that create skepticism are needed to close opportunities. By understanding where customers’ are in their buying journeys, and matching our approaches to it to create balance, we simultaneously limit skepticism while increasing the ultimate likelihood of a sale.

"Scientists are complicated. Buying journeys are complicated. Your path to winning them can be easy. BioBM will ensure that your customers’ buying journeys – no matter where they start – end squarely on you. Let’s take your marketing to the next level and dominate the competition. Get started."

Winning the Battle for Attention

Before you win a scientist's business you must win their attention.The most precious and limited resource that life science marketers and salespeople must fight for is undoubtedly money. Everyone is trying to get a piece of those often set-in-stone lab budgets. However, before that battle is an equally important one; one involving a resource that is almost as scarce and becoming scarcer. That battle is for the attention of your audience.

Attention is a resource that is inherently limited. Each person only has so many hours in the day. As more companies (and other distractions) vie for their attention, it behaves like any limited resource under increasing demand – the cost goes up.

Most marketing campaigns ignore this fact. They’re built under the assumption that the audience will care about what you have to say, but that’s a very poor assumption to make in most circumstances. Perhaps in a world of unlimited time and attention that would be the case, but will the audience care more about what you have to say than all the other things that are vying for their attention at that point in time? Put in that perspective, the answer is often a clear “no.”

So what can we do to obtain and keep scientists’ attention such that our messages even have a chance of getting through? How do we ensure that we have enough attention to effectively educate and persuade them that our viewpoints are correct and they should purchase from us? In addition to creating the standard campaign elements, you need to build in a mechanism to ensure you’re doing the following…

Step 1: Captivate

Interruptions can be easily ignored. We’re all trained to do it. Think about it… How many banner advertisements do you see in a day? How many email promotions? How many TV commercials or magazine ads or billboards? Now how many do you actually pay attention to? How many can you remember?

The lesson here is that interruptions are very ineffective. However, unless you’ve already built a large audience or community, you’re pretty much limited to interruption tactics. Those tactics will get the audience’s attention infrequently, so you have to make it matter. The first thing you need to do when you get that scarce bit of attention is ensure you’ll get it for more than a fleeting moment. You need to captivate your audience.

The worst thing that you can do – which most marketers do anyway – is start by expressing a “what” statement. In general, your audience does not care about what you are or what you’re selling (yet). You need to lead off with a statement of belief – a “why” statement – that will be both emotionally compelling to the audience and subject to agreement by them.

Step 2: Hold

That first interaction won’t last forever, so you need to ensure that you’ll be able to reclaim their attention when you next need it. That first interaction must create recognition of need. The need doesn’t have to be for your product or service, but rather for the information to follow. They need to understand that there is more to learn and future information will benefit them.

The most common way for a campaign to execute this is with an email signup followed by drip marketing. This runs into the problem of requiring their attention at a specific point in time. Once an email gets put aside for later, it becomes far less likely to be read. Support your continued communications with other means of reminding the audience, such as automatically triggered reminder emails or display remarketing ads.

(Quick side note: people are more likely to respond to loss than to gain. If you’re having trouble crafting messages that keep the audience’s attention, play off this loss aversion. Tell the audience what they are currently or losing rather than what they might gain.)

Step 3: Build

There will always be people who would likely buy from you at some point in time, but cannot or will not buy now. You want to be able to retain their attention to make purchase at a later date more likely. Even for those that do buy, you want to ensure you utilize your command of their current attention to make it easier to regain their attention later.

As interruption marketing becomes less effective, you need to ensure you have a pool of people who have given you permission to get their attention. This can be done by creating valuable resources for your market which are likely to be repeatedly referenced and revisited. It can be done through community-building efforts. It can be done through regular distribution of high-quality content. Whatever you’re doing, it needs to be something that makes your audience want to come back for more. Ideally, your continuous re-engagement efforts should also be on a channel that you control to ensure that you won’t have any trouble getting promotional messages across when you need to and you can exert control over the channel to ensure it remains of high value for the audience.

You can’t convey a message unless you have your audience’s attention. The next time you’re creating a campaign, be sure that you build in a capacity to captivate the audience and retain their attention.

"Looking to build more effective campaigns? Contact BioBM. We’ll ensure you get the audience’s attention and use it effectively to generate demand."

The Power of Print

flood of emailIf the forecast calls for rain, followed by ever-increasing amounts of rain thereafter, what is the end result? Assuming the forecasts are correct, you would have one heck of a flood.

That’s what the state of content marketing currently is. It’s a constantly-increasing deluge. We’re flooding our audiences with it, and they don’t have the attention spans to pay attention to even a small fraction anymore. As a result, content is becoming less effective, and marketers need ways to ensure their content stands out and successfully captures that scarce customer resource: attention.

Oddly enough, one of the most valuable ways to do so is to use a rapidly-forgotten tool.

Put Your Content in Print

Which of the following are you more likely to read: A) An email newsletter with links to a bunch of different articles, or B) A magazine that you’ve subscribed to which contains those same articles? Which of those is easier to ignore? Which is easier to unsubscribe to?

The fact of the matter is that if you put something in print it is more likely to get attention. There are other benefits as well. Long-form printed materials (for example magazines or books) convey more authority than do digital content. They also have more perceived value. This means that customers will give more up to obtain it, and you can use that to collect more information from them. At minimum, they expect to have to give up their address since the content will be physically mailed to them.

Some tips for life science marketers considering printed content:

  • Not all content is suitable for print. You need to ensure that the bulk of the content is of high value to the audience, or else your mailing will simply end up in the trash. Product- or service-specific content should be avoided as it will come off as pitchy.
  • If you want to use your printed content to more directly generate demand, place “advertisements” for your products and services within your printed materials.
  • To convey authority, try to adopt a magazine-style format. This requires a significant amount of content. If necessary, publish less often to ensure both the perceived and actual value is high
  • Get creative. Simply reprinting your blog posts is boring. Do something different. If the creative juices aren’t flowing, you can always do an interview or highlight some recent industry news just to mix things up.


There have been a lot of people who have given the advice: “look at what everyone else is doing, then do the exact opposite.” While that’s not exactly a principle to live by, it can help find opportunities. Content is overwhelming the digital realm, but if anything it is retreating from print. As print becomes less and less common, it may become easier and easier to use that medium to get your audience’s attention.

"Stop following trends and start creating them. BioBM has helped dozens of life science clients across the globe build their brands and win business through innovative marketing. Is it your turn? If so, contact us."